The Fourth: Past and Present

Another Fourth of July has passed. I remember my first Fourth in New York, six years ago, taking the train down to the City, heading downtown, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and waiting with thousands of people from all walks of life, speaking dozens of languages underneath the Bridge to celebrate the Country’s birthday by viewing bright bursts of fire and gunpowder. Now, a relatively short period of time later, I spent this year’s Fourth at home with my three-year-old daughter and try to explain to her the reason for the fireworks over New York’s harbor. When her and her sister are a little bit older we will take them to see the fireworks live. But for this year, our couch and the television will suffice.

What they will never likely experience, however, is what I recall from my childhood – the purchasing of fireworks from the grocery store or Native American reservation, getting together with friends and family and putting on a show, complete with large explosives and all. Perhaps it’s a good thing that most cities have banned pedestrian firework use. I am not sure the marginal benefit of enjoying the fiery balls of light outweighs the risk of health, home and community. But those were good times. Bottle rocket wars. Roman candle fights. Blowing things up with M-80s and so on. Maybe I won’t tell my kids what they’re missing and focus on the firework shows I remember, such as New York’s spectacular annual display.

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